LONDON (Mar. 13)
A number of defendants in an “economic crime” trial held recently in the Soviet Union, some of whom have been sentenced to death, appear to be Jews, it was reported here today from Moscow. The Soviet Law Journal reported that a 14-member ring of embezzlers that stole goods from the state worth more than $1.5 million has been convicted. According to the Journal, the trial lasted eight months and concluded in December, but the Soviet press, observers said, did not report it. Some two hundred persons were called to testify as witnesses.
The Journal said the ring operated for about a dozen years and was headed by Alexander Heifitz. It said that by bribing the directors of several stores selling belts, blouses, corsets, textiles and other items of ladies’ wear, the ring sold the stolen goods to Moscow department stores. In October, 1964, a similar trial was held involving defendants named Roifman and Shakerman–both Jews–and most of the 21 defendants were sentenced to death. In 1961, large scale speculation and embezzlement were made capital crimes, and about 150 persons had been executed by 1964. The West condemned the “economic crimes” trials and they were apparently discontinued–at least no death sentences stemming from them have been reported in recent years.
The Journal indicated that more such trials lie ahead, saying some 80 persons had been suspected of similar crimes. It was generally acknowledged that, despite Soviet denials, Jews had been deliberately singled out for accusation and trial. The “economic crimes” trials had been given wide publicity in Russia.